Sprinter Pants….Metal Baby….Transformer(TM)….Bucket-List-Mobile, etc.

Where to start? This blog entry is long overdue. I got back from Madison, WI and things just snowballed, in a good way. (Upgrades to our initial build are here)


The Vision: The thoughts for the build came from lots of late night research, typing things into Google and reading fellow “van life” blogs like those of Traipsing About and Sprinter Van Diaries. To know my wife is to know her obsession with the water, ocean, boats and everything related and this contributed to the look, feel & color pallet. Other ideas came from talking with my friend Chad and visiting OutsideVan’s facility/operation in Hood River, OR back in January. The original thought was to source the build to Van Works in Forth Collins, CO (great guys with a wealth of knowledge to share.  Barry is at the helm and he’s great to work and brainstorm with) and/or OutsideVan. However, the estimates where a reality check and mind boggling, not to mention the 3+ month turnaround times. I believe in paying good money for good work and expertise, but the more I researched building it out myself, the more I realized I was capable of doing this on my own, especially with my background of helping to design/conceptualize mobile marketing vehicles for Toyota, Adidas, Clif Bar, Sony and more. And, with the help of a few willing friends (who agreed to help at a bar…always happens this way doesn’t it?!) the buildout was going to be a great journey and experiment for all of us.

Factory Settings: 4.5 months after putting the deposit down on the new 144” wheelbase, 2500 4 cylinder 2015 Mercedes Sprinter it finally showed up during the first week of May… and I was 1500 miles away in CA doing Tour of The Unknown Coast. Why so long to get the van???

We wanted swivel seats from the factory, a particular color, no factory installed radio or backup camera (these items we saved money on by doing an aftermarket Kenwood system, which we love). The factory installed swivel seats are what really set the timing back as it’s not a highly requested option. They make a big difference in overall life in the van. The other reason for buying them from the factory was their height. Factory swivel sweats are 2” shorter than aftermarket seats, making it easier for Pamela to drive and keeping the seats under warranty!  We wanted the 144” so we could be agile in moving around bigger cities and parking in a standard parking space. All worth the wait. During those 4.5 months I researched and researched some more and I became a valued customer of Amazon Prime! It’s a great place for one-stop shopping for all those little and big things you need.

Requirements + Wish List for the build out:

It had to be modular (removable bed, kitchen, storage etc.)

This van is my everyday vehicle and I need to use it for work and play

Keep #PennyLove (Boxer dog) happy and comfortable (i.e., cool in the summer temps)

Want the feeling of being on/in a boat, not a coffin

Room for 2 road bikes

Use a large fridge for prolonged habitation

Enough power to run a Vitamix (surge 780 watts)

It’s not a lot to ask for, right?! Just a few simple items. The biggest brainteaser was how to make things modular so we can use the bench seat when were not on the road for long stretches or a short weekend get away. This was also a hurdler for the outfitters as they generally don’t do builds of that nature.

Building Materials + Appliances:

FatMat for sound dampening

a little goes a long way. No need to place it all over the floor, walls or ceiling. Just a few little patches goes a very long way

Order from Amazon and it comes with a knife to cut it and a roller for applying it!

Refletix: used to help with insulating the van. I used this as the primary source of insulating the floor. I used it in combination with Thinsulate on the ceiling and walls.  The purpose behind it is to help reflect some of the heat, so it’s best NOT to place it directly against the skin of the vehicle, otherwise it will transfer some.

Thinsulate: I didn’t want to use any fiberglass insulation. Denim insulation was an option as well, but after lots of discussion with my friend Chad, we both (he ordered a 170” wheelbase) choose to order Thinsulate in bulk for our builds. This is great stuff. It’s non-allagenic and it’s easy to cut and tear.

Fridge: One of the things we strongly agreed on, besides taking Penny with us, was that we wanted a large fridge. We like our food and it seemed to make sense so twe could stock up on stuff vs. having to shop every other day or so. After doing lots of digging and looking at suggestions from other builds we choose the Isotherm fridge. I can say that it was the right choice. Its been running now for over 2 months straight and it only draw 5amps out of the house battery (connected to the 160w solar panel…love free electricity/power).

Vented Fan: We went big here and choose the top of the line FAN-tastic Vent model, which has the rain sensor (shutdown when it’s raining) and a thermostat, allowing us to set the temp of the van mostly for PennyLove’s comfort while we are away from the van.

Sink: We wanted a sink even with the galley kitchen being modular, meaning we’d have no pipes to worry about freezing in the winter. I originally wanted to use a hand pump system = no power needed = hassle free. After thinking about it and realizing we had free power (ie, solar), I decided to go with a small 1gpm RV pump. I found it online at Camping World. Luckily their store in Madison carried the pump and I was able to buy it in person. The system we have in place is great. The pump runs off the house battery, powered by solar, and it only uses 2amp. For water, I used a 7 gallon potable water jug and a 3 gallon gray water jug. The rule of thumb is your grey water should be larger than your freshwater. But, I know that we’re using more water to fill our riding bottles with and making coffee with vs. washing dishes with. I chose the sink based on aesthetics and functionally. The closing lid allows for greater counter space and the size of the sink is great for doing dishes and filling bottles.

Insulation Process:

I removed the factory flooring and side panels saved all the screws, bolts etc and placed them in bags with corresponding labels for easier reinstallation

I placed FatMat on the floor and on the walls and ceiling. I also placed FatMat under the driver and passenger floors.

I installed Refletix and Thinsulate on the walls and floor where applicable. Once the floor had its layer of Refletix, I reinstalled the floor, crew seat brackets and seat. The walls I left as is, as I wanted to leave it open for Barry at Vanworks to place his wires for the installation of the solar panels, fan and corresponding electrical.  In addition to what Barry and his team needed access to, I needed to also install wiring for the ceiling lights, outlets we wanted by the bed and for the fridge, water pump and Vitamix.

In all it took me about 1.5 days with some help from Chad, to install the FatMat, Refletix and Thinsulate. At one point during the process, Chad and I were so dialed that we had measured all the pieces we needed in-advance of cutting them, that I was cutting them all and he would retrieve and install them. It’s true, one should always measure 4x and cut once! Things are the same on both sides of the van; therefore, once we measured we had a template (saved us a ton of time and brain damage).

Additional climate control

Pamela used the leftover Refletix and make our window covers for the rear, side and driver/passanger windows. To make them look pretty on the inside she went to the local fabric shop and pick up 3 different patterns. The patterns matched each section, making it easy for us to remember what cover goes where. She sewed super duty magnets to the edges of the covers making the finished cover very easy to install and remove from the window!

The Buildout:  Walls, galley kitchen, sliding door side cabinets/table, ceiling, ceiling lights, ceiling cabinet.

My friend David agreed to help buildout the van, while at a bar in Boulder, where all good ideas are born. David is a jack of all trades and for the past 20 years has owned and operated a construction company, Nimbus Construction in Madison, WI. With David’s desire to help on the build and his access to equipment and knowledge, I knew that this would be a fun trip to Madison. After all my research on building outfitters I also noticed that there were no builders in the midwest, which means there is an opportunity for David and his team to capitalize on the void.

David and I worked out a 5 day window to do the buildout of galley kitchen, installation of the pine beetle kill ceiling, cabinets and additional storage. Before I showed up to Madison, I had purchased as many materials as I could. This was done to help speed up the process and reducing our visits to the local hardware store. Given that this would be our first Sprinter Van buildout, we knew there would be a few things that could go wrong but we weren’t worried about their severity. Once I arrived at David’s house we hit the ground running. After a few minutes of pleasantries we headed to his shop to unload the van of the pine beetle flooring which would be the ceiling, the bench seat, and other items I brought. From there it was off to the hardware store to buy our needed plywood for the side walls and other wood we’d use to make the kitchen and additional cabinets. To keep with the homey theme, we purchased a butcher block countertop, which we only cut lengthwise to be used on two sections, ripping wasn’t an option as it measured perfectly to fit the top of the fridge.

One of the first items we did sketch out was the size of the kitchen and side door cabinets and the layout the electrical needs/wants. David’s friend Nick, who does work for him, raised his hand to help with this. To keep things simple and reduce cost and headaches we used a heavy-duty gauge extension cord as our base wiring. We cut one  end of the plug off, exposing the wires and…bang you’ve got yourself a pre-wired and weather proof wrapped electrical source. The cord is as easy as pie to manipulate through the framework of the Sprinter as well, helping to speed up the process of overall electrical install. The other item I choose to save some time on and be resourceful with was the ceiling lights. I choose to tap into the existing lighting allowing us to use the timer, dimmer and on/off functions which came from the factory. All we needed to do was cut the wires to tap into the system.  This allowed us to pretty up the lights and to use LED vs. the crappy halogens which came with the van. I found the lights at Camping World but bought them on Amazon for a few dollar less. The best part about the lights is that we’re able to turn them on and off individually by tapping them and they also swivel allowing for greater illumination. Knowing that the ceiling lights wouldn’t be on all the time I also bought some pretty sweet magnetic LED’s and a set of remote operated LED’s which we mounted under the ceiling cabinets. These lights are great for reading in bed since the ceiling mounted lights are very very bright making it hard for one to read and one to sleep #compromise

Woodwork: The workflow of all the wood work (lots of wood in the van) was pretty dialed. We had a good system in place. David tackled the ceiling installation, with the occasional help from Sam and I. Sam worked his magic and math skills by creating the cabinets, galley kitchen and the piece-de-resistance, the stove cabinet. What did I do? Well, I stained and painted all the wood and brainstormed the layout, making for some fun moments between Sam and I as we tried to figure how to to make it work. We all lived by the rule of measure 4x, then cut, then install. We also made sure to treat the butcher block (sourced at the local hardware store) before installing it to the kitchen framework. The overall buildout was pretty seamless even with a lack of straight lines inside the Sprinter….lots of curves and angles to pay attention to. The one piece we built that gave us the biggest sense of accomplishment was the passenger cabinet that holds the camp stove. This piece was inspired by watching hours of Tiny House Nation, which provided me with inspiration for other ways to maximize space and storage within the van. For this cabinet we wanted to create storage on both sides and make the space functional. The main objective was to create usable space for the camp stove. We created a drawbridge which is supported with little chains strong enough to hold the camp stove (making a table). On the inside of the cabinet we placed sheetmetal. The idea behind this was to allow for a place the cooking utensils could live vs. pulling them in and out of a bin all the time. After some experimentation and my desire to use super magnets, I found that the camp stove can be held firmly in place by placing two magnets on the stove and then letting those stick to the sheetmetal. The same holds true (pun intended) for storing the small 2lb propane tanks. The magnets works great for keeping them from moving/bouncing around. As proud as I am of the entire buildout, the look and feel of the Sprinter (I love the Pine Beatle Kill, well the look, not the destruction of forests), my favorite piece is the cabinet the camp stove lives in. It showcases creativity and how important having pieces that are multifunctional in such a small space. The fact that it’s modular is icing on the cake.

The kitchenette, fridge and stove cabinet are removable and held in place via thumb screws mounted in to the floor, which can be covered up when they are not in the van.

Space: The one piece worth the expense was the awning. This is easy to install (as long as you like looking at photos with no words) and it doubles your living space! After doing some research we landed on the Fiamma F65s awning in dark grey. This of course is to match the van! The awning provides 64sqft of additional living space, shade and soothing access to the outdoors. It’s a great addition to the vehicle and for our sanity while truly camping off the grid.

Time Frame: The entire build that took place in Madison totaled 200 man hours over 5 days between 3 guys (David, Sam and I). Yes they were long day and we had some rain to deal with, luckily we had a shop bay to park in, allowing us to stay the course. We all learned a ton and David and Sam are primed for their next build.  I’d call them quick as they are getting lots of inquiries for builds. 

In addition to the 200 hours, I’d estimate that I dedicated 14hrs to just the prep work of insulting the van and installation of FatMat, Refleix etc. This was a great time saver for when we did tackle the overall buildout.

I’m sure that I may have forgot to list something in the above buildout. If there is something particular you want to know more about just leave a comment and I will answer as best I can, or just create a new post. Happy to help someone else out doing a build since we relied heavily on the experience from others. The entire process of researching, daydreaming,  acquiring, and building the van out has been fantastic. Now the real fun part begins. Tweaking the little things inside the van which make living in it easier for us and for Penny Love to feel as safe and comfortable as possible (she’s well on her way of LOVING the van).

The Name: Well, this thing looks and feels like a boat, so we think she needs a name.So far we’ve come up with Metal Baby, which is pretty funny (and true!) and  Sprinter Pants (family joke). After those two ideas, nothing has struck a cord. Let us know your thoughts.

Pamela and I are very lucky to have some amazing friends & family who helped us along the way, not just in the buildout (can’t thank David and Sam enough), but for supporting us in purchasing the Sprinter and encouraging us to live out the dream.

Until next time, thanks for reading and for supporting the buildout with all your social media love, comments etc. Hugs. The Roaming Robos!

Here are photos of the van build out and of Pamela, Penny and I enjoying the van!

(Upgrades to initial build are here)

Details about keeping our dog comfy and cool are here

47 thoughts on “Sprinter Pants….Metal Baby….Transformer(TM)….Bucket-List-Mobile, etc.

  1. Good things happen to good people. Enjoy all your hard work. Buckets list do come true. Keep dreaming and posting pics. Really cool way to check your family out! Enjoy the views! Nick

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pamela Robichaud

      Thanks Nick! Hugs… we’ll come traipsing through your neck of the woods in 2016 at some point. We want to see everyone we know next year!


  2. donnaleaapplebaum

    Congratulations, Pamela! Livin’ the dream! We rented one of these last September to camp in Yosemite (http://www.rvsanfrancisco.com), also solar, and after a couple of days of figuring out the systems we could have been on the road for a long time very happily! Have a wonderful time traveling in style and comfort, and creating memories!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the posting, well done kids

    Liked by 1 person

    • So nice to see the build. When you were discussing vehicles, why the choice of the MBSprinter over the Ford Transit? Where is the Solar mounted and wires run to the battery? Thoughts on the extra add on AC unit. Can the front AC unit keep the rest of the van cool. Thinking about Arizona.


      • George, Thanks for the note. We chose the MB over the Transit, due to years of proven use. The Transit is new to the market and the engine isn’t as tested as the MB. I also knew of lots of options (swivel seats) we wanted that Ford didn’t have available. The solar panel is on the roof, between our roof rails so we can mount a rack if we want. The wires for that were run along the upper driver side of the van (inside) and down behind the driver seat and under the floor to the passenger seat where the house battery lives. We chose NOT to go with the AC unit due to the power draw it requires. The vented fan works great with the vented window. We did get the additional floor AC vent, which helps push the air to the back of the van vs. just the standard AC/Air vents in the front. Hope this helps and happy building.


  4. […] Ceiling Fan: Jon wrote about this in the previous entry.  It has a thermostat and goes as low at 60 degrees.  It has a rain sensor which is great at […]


  5. Hi !
    I love your buildout it’s amazing 🙂 I am hoping to become an owner of a sprinter van very soon.
    I was just wondering how did you build the bed platform to suspend freely ?? It’s dark in the pictures and I can’t see exactly how it’s attached it looks like it is just floating.
    Any help would be appreciated 🙂 much love


  6. Hi I would love to know how you attached the suspended bed platform.


    • Jesse, Thanks for the note. The bed is a 3 piece platform bed, which comes in and out. The side rails are what’s attached to the frame of the vehicle. You can source one of these from VanWorks here in Fort Collins, CO or from RB Components online as well. Hope this helps.


    • it’s attached via rivnuts which are installed on each side of the vehicles frame.


  7. im new to your blog and discovered it quite by accident on tumblr of all places..bad ass vehicle and i aspire to do the very thing you are are doing!!


  8. great build! We are designing one right now and are totally confused with all the different insulating options. So your layers were as follows (for example on the walls): Rattletrap for sound dampening, then Reflectix and then thinsulate and finally paneling? ugh… so many choices. The main issues seem to dampen the sound, and then insulate against heat and cold— all without causing moisture issues inside the van. How’s it all working?


  9. Hi! Love the build. Just came across your blog via an instagram post from Sprintervan Diaries. My wife and I are in the process of doing our build and I was wondering about the planks you used for the ceiling and your decision to mount the them directly to the van instead of furring it out. We are looking to do something similar on the walls and ceiling. We are short people and can sleep the width of the van if we don’t take in too much space on the sides. Wondering how the planks on the ceiling have held up and how much noise you’ve encountered by not furring it out? Thank!


    • Cam,

      thanks for the comment, sorry for the delayed reply. I was off the grid for a while on a boat for 10 days. The wood planks are great. It’s tongue and groove pine beetle kill flooring. With having it screwed in and glued it is very secure and doesn’t make lots of noise. The side walls are great and you’ll find it to be a great use of material. It’s 1/8 thick plywood we stained. Save yourself some materials and time by NOT flanking it out. Just make sure to measure where the holes are in the ceiling so you don’t drill through the wood into a hole. Any more questions let me know and have a great time with your buildout.


  10. Thanks for posting your build out. Out of curiousity, did you end up choosing the 4 cylinder or 6 cylinder enginer for your project?


    • We choose the 4. The 6 is nice, but it gets lower mpg and since we’re not really towing anything we wanted to save the $.


      • Thanks for the response! Are there any factory options that you wish you had gotten? Do you find the rear facing windows useful?


      • Id not change any of the options, really Maybe get the aux battery which lives under the hood. Windows are great as when we are not on the road, a year from now or before w left this is my everyday car and i put the bench seat in. So it’s nice but not needed really. Plus it helps with light in the van from time to time so you don’t feel like you’re in a cafe 😉


      • Cave. Not cafe. A cafe would be nice too.


      • Thanks for all the info again!
        The crew van in Canada has the rear door windows as additional options. I’m weighing the privacy/insulation over light. I’m hoping to use this vehicle to both roam and boot around town when not travelling

        You’d get the additional aux battery option instead of, or in addition to your Stark Power (house battery)?


      • If you’re using the van for both camping and daily use, I’d say get the windows. Cheaper to get the window from the factory vs. after market. As for the battery, the aux factory battery is under the hood, this give you more room to play with things under the passenger seat. You can swap out the battery if desired, but at least the holding frame is installed by the factory..again cheaper in the long run.


  11. Thanks so much for this post! We just signed papers on a very similar 144″ sprinter and your buildout is the closest we have found to one that will work for our lifestyle. We are paraglider pilots, so lots of gear! Thanks for all the tips-you have so many creative ideas and love the finished look of your setup. We’ll definitely be copying some of the plans if you don’t mind 🙂 might even hit you up with a few questions as we get going on our build. Cheers!!


    • Awesome. Stoked to see how the build comes. Follow our IG account for more ideas and tweaks as we live in it for a year+.


      • Hey Jon, we have been following your instagram–love all your photos! We are @avessinrumbo 🙂

        -A couple questions we have come up with as we are moving along in our build:
        We love the look of your upper cabinets–any chance you know the measurements? we can eyeball it, but wanted to compare what we were thinking of going with. Do you have any issues with them feeling like they get in the way over the kitchen counter at all (bumping your head)?

        -What type of hinge/ locking mechanism did you use on those overhead cabinets to hold the doors open? Also what type of locking mechanism to hold them closed?

        -It looks like you have the driver’s seat swivel installed, but your countertop appears to extend pretty close to the back of the driver’s seat. do you find that you have enough room to make the seat swivel still usable? The driver’s side swivels are currently backordered for months, so we don’t have the luxury of being able to install it and see how much room we need when we install the kitchen cabinets and counter…. any thoughts on this would be super helpful!!

        Thanks so much!


      • Becca, Thanks for the kind words. Stoked to see the progress on your van and please feel free to ask any and all questions.

        Cabinets: They are roughly 14″ wide. Their length I recall is about 96″. That’s 2′ per section. Pamela sleeps on that side and she doesn’t bump her head as I measured it and moved it towards the driver seat so that she could sit up and have room back there. There’s tons of room under them near the kitchen area and we don’t hit our heads. Hinges. I found some locking ones at a small hardware store. Not even sure of the name, sorry. They are OK, but not great. I know Van Specialties has some you can look at or call about. Also Ikea has some good locking hinges. The cabinets stay closed when we drive, no issue with clothing or food spilling out 🙂

        Swivel Seat: I also measured the area behind the seat ensuring that I could swivel at least 45 degrees. At this angle I can still use the counter as a desk and it still opens up the cab.

        Hope this helps.


      • Please teach the rest of these internet hooagilns how to write and research!


  12. Thanks so much Jon! Super helpful. I’m sure we’ll have a few more questions as we go 🙂 Happy adventuring!


  13. […] about food & human temperature control/comfort, I urge you to refer to our two posts about the initial build out and pre-departure upgrades. We have a fridge, camp stove, hot pot for water, rice […]


  14. […] When you’re about to hit the road for 365+1 days, (or more…or less based on human dynamics…Joking) you tend to overthink things you need or want to take on the road with you. You also begin to wonder and question if the van you just built will live up to your expectations.  Questions you start to think about are, will I have enough power? How will Penny during colder summer nights or on warmer days when we ride? Where’s all our stuff going to go? The list can go on for days if you let your mind wander long enough. With a little pros and cons exercise list of wants/needs and desires we settled on three major priorities. (For details of our initial van build, click here) […]


  15. […] for other phases of our build on the “van build details” tab or here: Metal Baby (original build)   +  How Penny Love Keeps Her Cool  +  Pre-trip […]


  16. Love your helpful posting on the buildout. May I ask where you sourced your beetle kill pine? What’s the thickness of the boards? How did you finish them? I like the idea of using the beetle kill wood and your finished walls look great! I am partial to a lighter overall “tone” to the walls but some planking I have seen seems very dark. I don’t know woodworking but I presume it’s the products used to finish that darken the blue. I read that a blowtorch passed over the wood turns the blue coppery in color-any comment? Are they a click in place or is each board pinned to substructure? I so don’t have construction skills but enjoy learning new things and don’t have budget at present to contract out for the conversion so any info would be greatly appreciated.


    • Liz aka Lisa,

      Thanks for reading the blog and enjoying the thought process behind it. As for the pine beetle kill wood, I did a google search of Pine Beetle kill retails in the Denver/Boulder, CO area. After calling a few and asking to buy some some 2nd’s (left overs) or semi-damaged pieces I found a guy just outside of downtown Denver. After doing the math on our demential needs, we bought 10% extra Ithis was to ensure that if something broke we’d have a spare part.

      Color: The blue actually comes from a die from the beetle that kills the tree. It’s a natural process. You can highten the blue color by burning the top with a torch for sure, but we didn’t know that.

      Thickness: We have 3/4″ width planks and they are tongue and groove floorboards. Sort of click in place, but we screwed them to the existing frame of the ceiling of the van. The side walls are just 1/8″ plywood that I then lightly sanded and stained for the darker contract. We thought about keeping it all pine beetle kill, but the lighter wood on the bottom we though would show more dings, scuffs etc. The benefit of the plywood is that it has some give to it when using on the sides. Note there is NOT one 90 degree angle in the van.

      Hope this helps you some. Good luck with the build.


  17. Hi Jon, Pamela and Penny Love, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experience. I stumbled across you site yesterday and have found myself coming back a few times. I really enjoy the simplicity of your fit out and the consideration you have given to Penny Love in your thought process.
    My wife and I are fascinated with the idea of doing a van fit out similar to yours. I have a couple of questions, I hope you don’t mind me asking?
    Your insulation seems much more simple than most of the builds I’ve seen (we live in New Zealand so don’t experience the extremes of temperature you can experience in North America). Your insulation comprises of FatMat, then Thinsulate overtop, which is held in place by Reflectix, is that correct? Then you have “lined” the roof and walls of the van. Have you found this sufficient insulation wise? Have you filled the voids behind the van “ribs” too? You don’t mention a waterproof layer, is that not needed when using Thinsulate?
    Did you reuse the factory floor after applying FatMat? Did you insulate the floor?
    You chose to glue and screw the panelling directly to the van frame/ribs. Do you think it would be feasible to use 1/8″ plywood on the roof? Is it flexible enough?
    Thanks again for the inspiration all the way from NZ.
    Cheers, Scott


    • Scott, thanks for the kind words. Glad you like our simple build and overall story.

      Here are the answers to your questions. If they seems short feel free to ask me for more details.
      Insulation: have an Rating of R19. Reflextic is R3 and thinsulate is R16. I filled at many voids as humanly possible.

      Waterproof: I didn’t do a barrier as the van isn’t airtight like an RV is made. There air gets in and out of the van and ceiling due to the overall finish so I’m not worried about mildew etc. it’s not really worth the trouble. FatMat is to help dampen the sound

      Floor: yes I pulled this up and insulated the floor. I only used reflextic. I have the original factory floor still in there. It’s very durable and we wanted to save $$$ by keeping it.

      Panels: I installed these directly to the van frame and roof ribs. The plywood you mentioned is perfect as it offers enough bend when installing.

      Good luck


      • AWESOME, thank you so much for replying.
        I had suspected the whole waterproof/vapour barrier thing was a bit of an overkill. Also, I think people are paranoid because they are using denim insulation.
        Living in New Zealand EVERYTHING is so expensive so gathering ideas to keep cost down a bit is great. Also, we won’t be living full-time (unfortunately) in our van anytime soon so keeping it more simple and cost effective is more important.
        Thank you ageing so much for the site and for being so forthcoming with advice.


  18. Hi Jon, thanks so much for the write up. How many sq ft did you end up using of the FatMat, Refletix and Thinsulate?


    • Terrence,

      Thanks for the note and glad you found the write up helpful. I’m not sure the exact sq ft of each i used. I know we had used 2.5 rolls of FatMat and 3 rolls of Refletix. Both should have links to amazon from where we bought them. As for the Thinsulate. I used 1.5 rolls. My friend and I bought a total of 4 rolls as he was building a 170″ to save on shipping cost. I hope this is of some use and sorry for not knowing the exact specs anymore.


  19. manuel doblado


    I love your beautiful van build. I was hoping you could help me with my roof build. I have the 144 high roof and I would like to install a motorized awning, solar panels, and cross bars for paddle boards. Any help on the equipment details and layout would be greatly appreciated.



    • Manuael. The easy way to do this is to make sure you have roof rails on the roof. If not get those installed or install them yourself first.

      Do you really need a motorized awning? The hand crank is just a good and cheaper. Just my two cents. Hey both mount the same way and the cleanest is via roof rail brackets sold by Fiamma.

      I did a write up on making my own crossbars with 80/20 for our cargo box. That might help you also as most standard crossbar systems will NOT work with the any awning installed on the roof

      Good luck and happy building.


  20. Hi Jon,

    Yours was one of the first builds that inspired us in this adventure so thank you for sharing your story. My husband and I were wondering if your friend is still doing sprinter work in Madison. As you said, not a lot here in the Midwest… and we are, quite honestly, pretty desperate for some help on our cabinetry. Just wondering if Sam and David are an option as when we looked up Nimbus it appears to have merged with another company? Thanks so much!


    • Meghan,

      Sorry for the delay in this reply. Congrats on your upcoming adventure! Sadly, my friend David isn’t able to help as he’s still completing the merger stuff and is a bit overworked. Based on your location and timing I’d suggest looking at a new company here in Golden, CO called Tourig. They do great work and are quick. I’m sorry I can be the provider of better news for you right now. Any other questions please let me know. Happy building.


  21. Hi Jon,
    I really like the layout of your van. Since i am converting an old Mercedes van i am really interested in your bed construction! I think you used two panels? What is the dimension of the frame/panel?
    When you climb in/sit on the edge, does it bend? I’d be pleased to hear your opinion.
    Greetings from germany,


  22. Julian, Sorry for the delay here. The bed doesn’t sag when we sit on it. We have 3 panels that make up the platform. I’m not sure of the dimensions, sorry. The panels have additional supports very 14″ inches or so, if that helps.


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